Childrens Book Event: Author Interview with Oisin McGann

Welcome to another great interview from a great childrens author. Today I have Oisin McGann on the blog. Oisin is the author of the Mad Grandad Series and The Forbidden Files series! Enjoy the interview and let me know what you think of the sound of Oisin' books in the comments!

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing?

I’ve been writing stories since I was about six or seven, and illustrating them for nearly as long, but worked professionally as an illustrator, commercial artist and designer first ­– as well as doing a stint as art director and copy writer for an advertising company. I was first published as a writer in 2003, with the first two Mad Grandad books and then two novels, all within the space of a year. To date, I’ve published twenty-two books, with another young kids’ book about to be released, and a new novel coming out in March 2013.

Lets talk books:

Can you tell us a little about your Mad Grandad series for 6+?

Mad Grandad's Robot Garden
The first two books, Mad Grandad’s Flying Saucer and Mad Grandad’s Robot Garden, were actually written in an attempt to get illustration work. The O’Brien Press liked one of my drawing styles for an existing range of books they had, but didn’t have anybody to write new stories for the range, so I had a crack at it. They’re only 1,500 words long, so they’re very compact little stories, and have black and white illustrations on every page. Each story is based on some mundane aspect of life given an extremely weird spin, like having your spaceship clamped for illegal parking; thieving creatures living down the back of the couch where you always think you’re losing stuff; or going fishing and catching a mermaid.

Where did you get the idea for the series?

I needed a lead character aged between about five and eight, but children at that age are pretty restricted in their movements, so I wanted a somewhat irresponsible adult to enable them to go farther afield without protecting them from all the things a good parent would fend off. The idea of a mad parent could be a bit disturbing, but most kids think their grandparents are a bit mad. I just played that up a bit and made him delusional, but in a nice way. I based various aspects of his appearance on a bunch of old men I knew.

There are currently six books in the series. Can we expect more from Mad Grandad?

There are certainly plans to do more – I have the next one written. But O’Brien have finished up the Flyers, which was the wider series Mad Grandad was a part of. We hadn’t originally planned Mad Grandad as a series in its own right, the books just developed a life of their own. O’Brien want to do that series now, but we have to re-design the existing six books first.

You also write The Forbidden Files for children aged 8 and up. Can you tell us a little about them?
The Evil Hairdo

These were aimed at . . . well, me I suppose, when I was that age. I loved Roald Dahl, I loved his wildly inventive imagination, the madcap characters and his wicked sense of humour. It’s hard to create the same shock in readers nowadays, but I came up with the idea of a series of stories that were never supposed to be published, because they were judged unsuitable for children, and that O’Brien were protesting at their release. That was our pitch, that these comedy horror stories had been stolen and published by irresponsible rebels within the company. I wrote three: The Evil Hairdo, a story about a girl’s hair coming alive; The Poison Factory, about three kids lost in a factory full of horrors; and Wired Teeth, about a school bully who picks up radio signals on his braces and starts hearing and seeing things.

Children's books are put into age categories. However I am noticing that some younger children are reaching for books aimed at children a little older than they are. For example:  some easy reads are aimed at children ages 5-6 years however some younger children even in nurseries are picking them up even for there parents to read to them. What is your opinion on this matter?

Wherever possible, I think kids should be allowed to read whatever they want. People in the business need to be able to refer to different categories of books because we have a general audience in mind when we produce them, shops need guidance on what the potential audience is for any book, and schools need guidance on the content and reading level of any book they use. But that’s where it should stop. I’m against age banding or too much prescription. If kids want to read above their perceived reading level, then they’re curious and probably more mature than average, and will probably put a book down if it’s too much for them, either in content or level. Reading is a natural form of censorship – you have to be able to read to access the content.

On the other hand, I think the industry has a fundamental problem in the way it markets books, because it’s run by book-lovers, and it largely markets its products to book-lovers – particularly librarians and teachers, and to a lesser extent parents. I think we fail to engage a large proportion of kids because we’re not publishing the right content in more accessible formats. The majority of kids do not spend their pocket money on books – they’re more likely to spend it on magazines with much the same level of content, sold at similar prices. I do a lot of work with kids in primary and secondary schools and I’m convinced that, as an industry, we’re constantly overestimating the reading ability – and particularly the reading stamina – of the kids we hope will buy our books. I regularly find my Mad Grandad books being read by eleven- and twelve-year-olds, and find my Forbidden Files in secondary schools. There’s something here we’re just not getting right.

Are you working on anything at the moment?
Always! I’ve written a young children’s horror story entitled The Wolfling’s Bite for the Nightmare Club series (under the series name, Annie Graves) for Little Island in Ireland, which is just being released. Random House have been publishing my novels since 2005. My next book from them, Rat-Runners, is a story about four young criminals trying to solve a murder in a near-future surveillance state. That’ll be out in March 2013, but I’ll also be releasing a prequel novella online in the run-up to the release.

You can buy Oisin's books from all major retailers and also for this Mad Grandad and The Forbidden Files series from the publisher O'Briens website!

Stalk the author:
To read the authors blog, visit:
You can also find me on Facebook at:
And follow the author on Twitter @OisinMcGann.

If you have missed any of the posts for the childrens book event, click the banner along the top of the blog to take you to a list of all the posts. There are some great posts there along with some great giveaways, all international!


  1. Great post, my sons love the sound of the Mad Grandads books. Ive added them to my buy list for the boys :)

  2. Both books look they will spark the imagination. I love that.

  3. This is the first I've heard of this author. Thanks for the interview, it's always good to find new children's authors! His Forbidden Files series sounds like something I would've loved as a child and it's nice to read books that are about something different! His upcoming books sound like they'll be great too : )

  4. My grandson could relate to the books Mad Grandad’s Flying Saucer and Mad Grandad’s Robot Garden. I will add these to his book list!